Even with sophisticated cybersecurity technologies in place, no organization is immune to security incidents. The recent attack on Ardent Health underscores the unsettling truth that a data breach can happen to even large, well-funded healthcare systems. The ransomware attack impacted more than 30 hospitals in six different states and served as a wakeup call across the industry.
As an industry, healthcare depends more now than ever on technology, and this reliance is here to stay. That’s why it’s so important for organizations to be good stewards of patients’ health and financial data. We can no longer afford for cybersecurity to be an IT problem. Instead, security has to be a job for everyone.
The key is to avoid reacting to headlines. Cybersecurity must be an ongoing effort by everyone in the organization to avoid major issues. All healthcare technology solutions should embrace security as part of their design and the inherent culture of the organization.
At Collette Health, we take data protection extremely seriously, constantly looking for weaknesses and reviewing processes to provide the best possible security net for our clients. Our dedication extends beyond compliance with regulatory standards like HIPAA, focusing on creating a culture of security awareness, employee training, and continuous improvement.
In this post, we want to share how we navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape and give guidance to help ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in an era where its protection is paramount.
Internal data protection and ensuring customer confidence in the SaaS platform
A single hospital produces, on average, 137 terabytes of data every single day. That number will only increase as more providers embrace virtual care solutions, add genetic testing to the mix and as artificial intelligence tools become more common.
Data is the lifeblood of the healthcare industry, providing the foundation for evidence-based decision-making, improved patient outcomes, and ongoing research advancements that shape the future of healthcare delivery. But data can also be a major liability for providers when it comes to cybersecurity. Healthcare organizations store a treasure trove of sensitive information, including patient health records, insurance details, and financial data, all of which are high-value targets for bad actors.
For a software as a service (SaaS) company like ours, data protection is a two-fold issue. First, we have to secure our own internal proprietary information. This is something all modern businesses face, and there are a variety of best practices to follow. Some of the ways we protect our data include:
- External Penetration Tests: External penetration tests involve simulated cyber attacks from outside the organization to identify vulnerabilities in the network. By mimicking real-world threats, these tests help uncover potential weaknesses and fortify our defenses against external intrusions.
- HIPAA Compliance Audits: Regular audits assess data security practices, privacy measures, and overall compliance to safeguard patient information and maintain the trust of stakeholders.
- Endpoint Detection and Response: Endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems continuously monitor and analyze activities on end-user devices. They provide real-time threat detection, enabling swift response to potential security incidents and minimizing the impact of cyber threats that may target individual devices within the network.
- Software Vulnerability Scanning: This practice involves systematically scanning software and systems for potential vulnerabilities. By identifying and addressing weaknesses in applications and infrastructure, we can preemptively fortify our defenses, reducing the risk of exploitation by malicious actors.
- Attack Surface Management: Attack surface management involves the continuous monitoring and reduction of potential points of vulnerability. By minimizing the attack surface, we decrease the likelihood of successful cyber attacks and enhance our cybersecurity resilience.
- IT and Development Teams: Our IT and development teams play a crucial role in implementing and managing cybersecurity tools and practices. They are responsible for deploying protective measures, conducting regular system updates, and collaborating on the development of secure applications, ensuring a proactive defense against evolving cyber threats.
Unlike your average business looking to minimize risk, Colette Health has the added responsibility of shielding the sensitive healthcare and financial data of our clients. As a SaaS platform, we take on added measures to ensure our customers feel confident about the safety of their data on our platform, such as:
- Cloud-Native Security Technologies: Our security technologies were specifically designed for cloud environments. Unlike some legacy software solutions, Collette Health has always been a cloud solution, so our security measures are tailored to the dynamic and scalable nature of cloud infrastructure, enhancing overall protection against cyber threats.
- Secure Code Deployment and Infrastructure Scanning: We regularly scan our entire infrastructure for vulnerabilities to ensure our code is free from potential security loopholes. Continuous monitoring minimizes the risk of exploitation and maintains a robust defense against potential cyber threats.
- Encryption Practices for Data at Rest and in Transit: Encryption protects sensitive data both when it is stored (at rest) and during transmission between different components of the platform (in transit). Encryption serves as a critical layer of defense, preventing unauthorized access and safeguarding the confidentiality of client data.
- Purpose-Built Observation Stations for Patient Monitoring: We have designed and configured observation stations to reliably monitor patient information, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access and potential threats in healthcare environments.
We have created a cohesive cybersecurity strategy that integrates security measures across the entire organizational infrastructure, effectively bridging the gap between internal systems and the SaaS platform to comprehensively protect client data. In fact, we’re an extra set of eyes for our clients, and if we spot bad actors or areas of concern, we can alert them right away, potentially even before they spot nefarious happenings themselves.
Human Element in Security
Unfortunately, humans are easily bamboozled and tricked by social engineering, phishing emails, fake software updates, impersonation attacks and other deceptions used by hackers and scam artists to gain access to private data.
When the internet was new, cybersecurity generally rested on the shoulders of one person or a small group of people providing tech support to an organization. That way of thinking will not work in modern healthcare applications. As dependence on technology and the web increases, you have to give everybody a seat at the table and build a company culture that takes cybersecurity seriously at every level.
Building a robust security culture within an organization transforms the organization’s approach from mere compliance to proactive defense. It starts with instilling a heightened awareness of cybersecurity at every level, from leadership to front-line employees. This sense of shared responsibility empowers individuals to recognize and respond effectively to potential threats.
Practically, the first step in this shift is employee training that teaches workers how to spot outside threats to the organization’s data. Training is not just a protective measure; it’s an investment in building a resilient line of defense, ensuring that individuals at all levels of an organization play an active role in fortifying the digital infrastructure against evolving cyber threats.
Proactive Security Measures
Collette Health starts from the lens of HIPAA compliance and builds a robust strategy above and beyond those regulations. Some of the best practices healthcare organizations can use to protect their data include:
- Regular, third-party audits: Outside audits, including SOC 2 Type II and HIPAA assessments, ensure that security controls and processes align with industry standards, providing an extra layer of validation for the robustness of the data protection measures in place.
- Periodic Access Reviews: Third-party tools are part of the business of healthcare. However, each organization should think carefully about who has access to client data. Be selective about how that access works, and review, at least annually, who is using that data and why.
- Data Sovereignty – Ideally, access to sensitive information is limited to U.S. support and development teams exclusively. This approach enhances data sovereignty, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and aligning with regulatory requirements.
- Data Security – The implementation of TLS 1.2 across all services ensures secure data transmission, while robust encryption practices guarantee that all data is encrypted both in transit and at rest. This dual-layered encryption enhances the overall security posture of an organization’s data infrastructure.
- Security training – Employee training cannot be overlooked. Ongoing training initiatives equip staff with the knowledge and skills needed to identify and respond effectively to potential security threats.
By integrating these practices into the organizational culture, healthcare entities can not only fortify their data protection measures but also foster a proactive defense to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity.
Technology and huge quantities of data are central to effective healthcare, but if that data is not protected, people can get hurt. The impact of security breaches on patient experience is significant, ranging from disruptions in care delivery to potential compromises of sensitive health information.
If healthcare organizations do not proactively manage risks by embracing a comprehensive cybersecurity framework that extends beyond compliance requirements, they also face severe legal, financial, and logistical challenges.
Moving forward, it’s imperative for healthcare entities to adopt best practices that extend beyond the minimum HIPAA requirements. This involves continuous education, regular assessments, and the integration of advanced technologies to stay ahead of evolving threats.
Every individual within a given organization plays a crucial role in the collective effort to fortify defenses and protect against cyber threats. By fostering a culture of awareness, training, and vigilance, healthcare entities can navigate the complex cybersecurity terrain with resilience, ensuring the safety and confidentiality of patient data while providing uninterrupted and secure care.